Do you ever find yourself in tune with every little thing in your environment? Something is beeping as you cook dinner, the TV is too loud, the kids are bickering, your toddler is hanging on your leg, your partner just got home and is asking about your day…. You feel like you could explode. Nothing terrible is happening yet you want to scream. If you have ever experienced this you are not alone. Most parents experience this at some point and there are things you can do to manage it.
What is overstimulation?
Overstimulation is also known as sensory overload. This happens when you experience more sensory input than your brain can manage. Sensory overload can be more intense for those who experience symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health diagnoses. Even without other mental health challenges, overstimulation is frustrating and overwhelming. Overstimulation is something parents experience frequently and may feel unmanageable when you are in the thick of it.
What can I do about overstimulation?
1. Try your best to not multitask
As parents, we are often tasked with multiple things at once. The issue is, when we multitask our attention is divided which means our sensory processing is also divided. This does not leave room for any other input, including our kids. Prior to parenting multitasking was likely easier because we could control our sensory input. As a parent, that is impossible which can leave us feeling irritated and agitated.
2. Be intentional about caring for yourself
Be sure to keep up with your physical needs throughout the day. If you aren’t eating or sleeping enough you can be more susceptible to overstimulation. Make sure you are meeting your physical needs and fueling your body so your brain can work effectively. Be sure to take time for yourself throughout the day as well. Even just 5 minutes to regroup during a busy day can make a difference.
3. Allow yourself breaks
Parents often feel touched out and overwhelmed by the end of the day. Be sure to schedule breaks from sensory input including touch. This is common in parents with young children. Communicate to your family that you need a break and don’t hesitate to utilize technology to give everyone some time. Feeling touched out can leave us feeling agitated so do your best to be proactive about breaks from sensory input.
4. Talk about it
Let your partner and kids know about overstimulation and how it makes you feel. You can also let them know what is particularly difficult for you, so they are aware. Talking about our feelings can also make them feel less overwhelming. Consider confiding in a friend or close family member who will allow you to express your feelings without judgment.
5. Walk away
Sometimes no matter what we do, we start to feel overstimulated and want to explode. When this happens, it is important to remember you can walk away. Leave a partner in charge for a few minutes, get the kids occupied with an activity and go to a quiet, relaxing space. There is no shame in walking away. If doing so saves you and your children from an outburst and allows you to calm down that is what is important. You are still a great parent even if you need to walk away.
Ready to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation?
Claire Whetter MS, LPC-IT, NCC
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